Dr. Grassian similarly noted this disturbing trend at the Ohio facility. The facility
employed a behavioral-control method of dealing with children who acted out; “[b]ehavioral
manifestations of psychiatric illness and of the erosive effects of solitary confinement are viewed
as ‘conscious choices’ and ‘thinking errors’, cognitive distortions that must be corrected.”136 Dr.
Grassian found that in general, the mental health treatment youth received while in isolation did
not look to treat the underlying causes of their bad behavior, but focused solely on the surface and
attempted to control that behavior.137 He concluded:
ODYS has the responsibility to protect and rehabilitate youth, to help them
develop into functioning adults. Instead, it embraces the worldview of harsh
punishment, of pounding, never-ending deprivation. It breeds cruelty and
dehumanization, as bad or even worse than found in many adult prisons. Over
time, the disciplinary sanctions so freely prescribed grow to a point that they are
mountainous, and there is nothing left in the youth besides hopelessness and rage.
The [SMU] program destroys what it is supposed to nurture.138
In evaluating this SMU program, Dr. Grassian concluded that the inadequate, and often
virtually nonexistent mental health care these youth received, combined with their long-term
placement in isolation, had an extremely anti-rehabilitative effect and led to their eventual
psychological and behavioral deterioration.139
III. LEGAL AND PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS FOR THE USE OF ISOLATION FOR YOUTH
The Supreme Court has reaffirmed in four recent cases that juveniles require special
protections from the juvenile and criminal justice systems. In light of cognitive and
developmental differences among youth as compared to adults, the Court first outlawed the death
penalty for individuals under the age of eighteen,140 followed by a prohibition against mandatory
life without parole for juveniles at the time of their offenses.141 The Court recognized the
vulnerability of children, noting their suggestibility, impulsivity, eagerness to please adults, and
immature decision-making.142 Building on its decisions in the Eighth Amendment context, the
Supreme Court in J.D.B. v. North Carolina issued an opinion based upon the principle that youth
are particularly likely to make involuntary and false confessions, and that children
“characteristically lack the capacity to exercise mature judgment and possess only an incomplete
ability to understand the world around them.” 143 These cases together suggest a movement
toward jurisprudence that requires a development approach to matters involving juvenile law.
Courts have similarly recognized that to satisfy the requirements of due process for
detained youth, it is appropriate, and in fact necessary, to consider that youth have different needs
and capacities than adults. 144 Similarly, since youth who remain in the juvenile justice system
136 Grassian Declaration, supra note 79, at 33.
138 Id. at 34.
140 See Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 578 (2005) (abolishing the death penalty for all youth).
141 See Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 74 (2010) (abolishing life without parole for juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses);
Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2464 (2012) (barring mandatory imposition of life without parole for all juveniles).
142 Miller, 132 S. Ct. at 2464-68; Graham, 560 U.S. at 68; Roper, 543 U.S. at 569.
143 See J.D.B. v. N. Carolina, 131 S. Ct. 2394, 2400-03 (2011).
144 YOUTH LAW CTR., LEGAL ISSUES AND LIABILITIES IN JUVENILE CONFINEMENT FACILITIES 8 (1999) (citing A.J. v. Kierst, 56 F.3d
849, 854 (8th Cir. 1995) (“[T]he due process standard applied to juvenile pretrial detainees should be more liberally construed than
that applied to adult detainees.”); Bergren v. Milwaukee, 811 F.2d 1139, 1143 (7th Cir. 1987) (“In assessing whether the treatment of